Sandhill Cranes painting themselves in the South Kettle Moraine in Waukesha County Wisconsin on February 22, 2017

I saw a first today in the Southern Kettle Moraine in Waukesha County. Sandhill Cranes painting themselves by preening mud into their feathers. They are known to do this to change their colors to blend in more with their surroundings. It was said by a friend of mine that iron oxide in the mud is a form of dye, they also said they turn gray again after they molt before migrating in the fall, makes perfect sense. Totally amazing to watch so I had to share some of this excitement with others. Images were taken on February 22, 2017.

The pair, preening and painting themselves with mud to change their colors

The pair, preening and painting themselves with mud to change their colors

Getting the mud...

Getting the mud……look at the paint

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Getting the mud

Getting the mud

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening….when doing their backs and even in other places, their large bill is rolling back and forth, in and out…at a pretty good speed

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening away…

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Painting and preening

Getting more mud...

Getting more mud…

The pair

The pair

Look at the paint!

Look at the paint!

Painting and preening away...

Painting and preening away…

In the beginning

Look at that paint job!

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About admin

Window to Wildlife features the photography of Jim Edlhuber. A lifelong native of Wisconsin, Jim has been photographing wildlife for 20 years. He considers himself an avid photographer and is always trying to capture nature and wildlife through his lens. He is in several photography clubs and has won numerous awards for his work. In recent years, Jim has focused mostly on birding photography and finds it to be the most challenging.

12 Responses to Sandhill Cranes painting themselves in the South Kettle Moraine in Waukesha County Wisconsin on February 22, 2017

  1. Ed Means says:

    As always, excellent pics. The best so far this season. Always enjoy your photos.

  2. Ann says:

    Wow, fantastic series! So, their summer brown isn’t a morph, or does the’paint’ just long enough until they do change plumage?

  3. Ann Gamble says:

    .. just last as long.

  4. Chris says:

    Great photos. I heard that they did this but never really believed it.

  5. Nan Wisherd says:

    This is right place/right time amazing! Thanks very much for sharing.

  6. H Kim says:

    Beautiful shots of artsy birds.

  7. Leah Clark says:

    Loved this series of photos

  8. nancy aten says:

    I’m glad to learn this. Fantastic photos, thank you.

  9. Joan Schrinner says:

    Absolutely amazing photos, Jim!

  10. Donna says:

    Thanks for sharing. I didn’t know they did that. Your photos are very good. God’s creation is amazing!!

  11. general birder says:

    In the early spring, as sandhill cranes are migrating to their breeding grounds, single cranes will start pairing up. A sandhill crane pair performs unison calling to create a bond.

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